Tribute to Henry Royce Institute Chair Professor Sir Peter Gregson

Tributes have been paid to Henry Royce Institute Chair Professor Sir Peter Gregson, who has died at the age of 66.

Sir Peter was appointed Royce Chair in December 2021, and has worked tirelessly with the Royce leadership team, Governing Board, and partners in Government and industry to drive forward the impact the Institute, not least its overriding ambition to support the commercial exploitation of materials innovation.

Professor David Knowles, Henry Royce Institute CEO said:

“Sir Peter’s untimely passing has been a terrible shock to the huge range of people with whom he has interacted, and our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Rachael, his daughters extended family of whom he was so proud.

“It is almost impossible to put into words the impact which Sir Peter had during his time with Royce – always inspiring to see him taking the business skills, diplomacy and acumen developed over so many years serving great institutions and directing them to the subject of Materials Science where he started his career. He was a visionary and courageous chair and Royce will sorely miss his support, guidance and insight on so many matters.  Needless to say he was always on hand at key events and his legendary ability to capture the essence of any proceeding and speak with no notes to hand was something to behold.

“For me personally the opportunity to work hand in hand with someone of such stature and morals has been and absolute privilege and I will be forever grateful for his constant support, deep wisdom and friendship.  He leaves a huge void which we must fill with a legacy of which he would be proud.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, FRS, President and Vice-Chancellor University of Manchester said:

“We are all feeling deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news about Peter. I have know him for many years since he was Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast. More recently he has been a fantastic Chair of our Royce Institute and it has been a great pleasure to meet with him on a number of occasions. Peter was a great engineer, researcher, teacher and leader who will be deeply missed by many. Our thoughts and condolences go to his family and friends.”

Legacy and Honours

Professor Sir Peter Gregson FREng was previously Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, President and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University, and he received a Knighthood for Services to Higher Education in 2011.

Awarded the Bessemer Medal and Matthey Prize at Imperial College London, he pursued an academic career at Southampton University and was appointed Professor of Aerospace Materials in 1995.

During his research career, he published over 160 papers, books and patents with over 80 being in premier academic journals, focussed largely on light alloys. He was Academic Director of the Luxfer Advanced Technology Centre (1998–2004), the DePuy University Technology Partnership (2000–04) and the Defence and Aerospace Research Partnership (DARP) in Advanced Metallic Airframes. As head of the department and Director of Research for Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science (1995–99), he created a new Transport Systems Research Laboratory and founded an Engineering Graduate School.

Among many other academic honours Sir Peter was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2001 and to Membership of the Royal Irish Academy in 2007.

He has also been Non-Executive Director of Rolls-Royce Group plc (2007-12), Strategic Advisor to Lockheed Martin UK (2016-18), founding Chair of the Arc Universities Group and served on the Councils of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2005-08) and the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (2004-06).

He has been Chair of the Chair of the Milton Keynes 2050 Futures Commission (2016) and the UniversitiesUK Task Force on Security Related Issues in Higher Education (2019-21).

Alongside his Royce role, Peter was also a Trustee of the Lloyds Register Foundation and the Royal Anniversary Trust.

As well as being an eminent scientist and engineer, Sir Peter was a devoted husband, father and grandfather and will hugely missed by his wife Rachael and this three daughters.